Ian & Sylvia ‘The Lost Tapes’ Features Live Performances & Unreleased Tracks (ALBUM REVIEW)

The legendary Canadians Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker met to years ago and thus began a storied career, both as a duo and as individuals. This project, Ian & Sylvia The Lost Tapes will be issued on September 6th, the day following their much anticipated induction as individual songwriters into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. These are newly discovered concert tapes from the early ‘70s, and never-before-heard versions of country and pop classics. Fans may salivate over the news of 26 songs but, in fact, there are only three here penned by Ian Tyson and three traditional tunes adapted and arranged by Ian and Sylvia.  The others read like “Folk Music’s Greatest Hits” but the recording is superb, and Ian and Sylvia were in peak vocal form through these shows. It’s rather remarkable how well the music holds up.

Fortunately some key songs like “Four Strong Winds” (deemed by the CBC to be the “most essential” piece of Canadian music), “Summer Wages,” “Crazy Arms,” “Four Rode By,” “Little Beggar Man,” “When First Unto This Country” and “Darcy Farrow” are here.  All appear on Disc One, titled “Classics.” It’s unfortunate that we don’t have a version of Sylvia’s biggest song, “You Were On My Mind,” which like “Four Strong Winds” was inducted into this same prestigious Hall of Fame. The impact of Ian and Sylvia Tyson cannot be overstated. Canadian music history journalist Larry LeBlanc says this in the liners, “Along with the Byrds, Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson they laid the foundation of Americana music that evolved as a recognizes source of popular culture.”

For this retrospective Sylvia and producer Danny Greenspoon picked unreleased performances that Sylvia had discovered while assembling memorabilia for the National Music Centre in Calgary (where the induction will be held.).Disc Two,  a nostalgic listen, is comprised entirely of covers and demonstrates their versatility and seamless knack for taking on Delta blues like Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen,” Mel and Tim’s 1972 R&B hit, “Starting All Over Again,” to classic country like Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty’s mega hit “After the Fire Is Gone,” Buck Owens’ “Crying Time” and “Together Again” as well as Gram Parsons’ “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” Folk artists of the time are represented too with the duo covering Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind” and Utah Phillips’ “The Goodnight Loving Trail.” Their straight-ahead approach and keening harmonies on these tunes is refreshing considering how many  were overproduced at the time.  

Their musical and marital relationship ended in 1975 but both have forged successful solo careers since. Ian is the prototypical cowboy, enjoying life on his ranch in Alberta and continues to perform his own western material. Sylvia continues to have a thriving solo career while performing, writing, and recording with Quartette (Caitlin Hanford, Cindy Church, Gwen Swick).

If your collection of Ian and Sylvia is worn, or if you just want to revisit this classic era of country and folk music, this is a great collection of songs, sung as well as anyone, or duo for that matter, has ever sung them.


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